Mark Frauenfelder at 9:43 am Wed, Jan 6, 2010
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"Alma" is a terrific five-minute animated film about a creepy doll shop. I watched it once, then called my 6-year-old daughter to watch it with me, and we watched it twice.
I recommend the full screen version on Vimeo.
Alma, by Rodrigo Blaas
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His latest book is Made by Hand: My Adventures in the World of DIY
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Hey, does anyone understand what this movie is about? I liked it a lot, but I didn’t really understand that shop. Who makes the dolls? What was the deal with that creepy transformation scene? And why is it that there was a doll girl in a kimono when this film was clearly nowhere near Japan? I’m probably over thinking it, but any info on this?
Totally dig the art nouveau design elements. And I’m glad I have a boy who is into trains, boats, blimps and cars. An apartment full of dolls would definitely creep me out.
Ugh! Brings back memories of a room I rented above a doll and puppet store in the Czech Republic. After a night of drinking … walking up the alley … opening the door to the store … walking through the store to my room … dodging puppets in the dark. The towns even look the same. I’m going to have more nightmares tonight.
A skit about a doll shop that steals children’s souls. Quick, get the kids so that they can watch it too and afterwards we can all watch Hellraiser.
According to a few sources out there the director of this short is an animator from Pixar.
If by ‘sources’ you mean IMDb, then spot on.
What I love is seeing the store window as a mouth, about to engulf its reflection, but only afterward. The malevolence is only present abstractly before that, and only because nobody likes china dolls.
Nice. Now when your six-year-old wakes up screaming from the doll nightmare at 2 am, you get to stay up with her.
I thought it was really well done: even though completely expected, the lightning-quick transformation and the “stuck behind a lens” effect at the end were haunting and memorable.
where is the music from? dig the sybolism, but frankly, I see it in every Pixar movie: we are the toyz.
I want the music!!!! LOL
To watch full screen, you can also right click on the video screen and select.. “Full Screen”..
…and of course, Alma is Spanish for “soul.” Saw this one a week ago with my daughter, who promptly put it near the top of her most-creepy movie list, above “The Orphan,” but presumably below the aborted whale fetus scene in “Orca”.
At any rate, watch it!
OMG. Perfectly creepy and delightful. The breathing sounds! GAH! Wonderful, wonderful.
I liked the Diane Arbus twins on the couch.
That’s further proof that china dolls are EVIL. Also, did anybody else matrix the front of that building into a face with the window a huge gaping toothy mouth?
I saw this.. http://lloydi.com/travel-writing/barcelona/images/casa-battlo-front.jpg
As for similar stories, see if you can find The Patchwork Monkey by Beverly Butler. I never saw the movie, but the short story is creepy. Sadly, it looks like the book is really expensive these days, but you can see a few images here:
this is terrific and scary!
“…a creepy doll shop”
Isn’t that redundant?
I wrote a story like this once for an english essay (pretty much the same ‘twist’ cept I had a malevolent shop keeper responsible, I used to be afraid of dolls so it was a nice way to put that in writing, anyway I digress).
I would agree that this is a common story and I saw its ending a mile off… only I can’t cite any actual books or material I’ve read that would give me that impression. It really seems more like some sort of ingrained trope, like a race memory that tells us to justifiably distrust these glassy eyed effigies lol.
Amazing! Reminds me of Jack in the Dark, a prequel of sorts to Alone in the Dark II (we’re talking 1993 here), which was also set in a grim dollhouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m-5kj3MYf0
I believe this Jonathan Coulton song is relevant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVtR7azLVcI
Agreed, it’s an old story. It’s actually got some pretty haunting film elements straight out of Freud’s essay on the Uncanny. The thought of a “double” existing is tantalizing and frightening, and always finishes with the elimination of one of the “clone” figures. I think BoingBoing has commented on the Uncanny Valley before…same principle. An unearthly human-looking thing that’s not quite human.
See: “The Double” By Dostoyevsky. (I THINK Dostoyevsky.)
And Frankenstein, and of course, “The Uncanny” by Sigmund Freud.
Yes I saw a face too. I think it was an Anglerfish version of Leibers Bazaar of the Bizarre.
I thought it was beautifully made but the storyline is far from original and you see it coming from the very beginning. There is nothing in it that surprises at all.
Kinda funny that this pops up here now, just as the Avatar hype is going round which apparently (I haven’t seen it) suffers from the same issue: looks great but lacks an interesting plot.
Where else does this same storyline appear, brinylon? My daughter loves this short film, and it would be fun to read/watch some other stories with the same storyline (as long as it’s age-appropriate, of course).
yes yes. Sometimes an animation is just a vehicle for the pretty-to-look-at-stuff. Now, maybe it is good that we see it coming. Maybe this has a back story that you don’t see coming – that is actually very interesting and could be fleshed out into something really intriguing. Think “Mr. Magorium’s Emporium” as you really wished it would be (not the sappy I-wish-I-was-Willy-Wonka movie that it was).
A good example of short to feature film: 9 – that movie that came out in September. As a film, it was pretty to look at but a terribly written story! The short was interesting and left a lot to the imagination. When it was fleshed out as a movie, well, it seemed only sort of half-fleshed out and the rest was a ragged bunch of drivel and predictability.
So this is like, ok, cool, a little short animation that isn’t much different than previews I’ve seen – you know what’s coming in the preview even, many are quite predicable. But all the in between stuff makes it interesting.
I love this! Amazing and artful.
Just watched The Skeleton Key recently; not the same plot, but similar.
Mark: has she seen/read Coraline?
This short reminded me more of a cross between Laika and Neil Gaiman
At #21, Coraline WAS a cross between Laika and Neil Gaiman. He wrote it, they made it into a really cool movie. I wish they’d do more. ^_^
Saw this short a few weeks ago. Then I watched it like this:
Make sure to mute the first video. :)
Oh wow. I think that’s the first time for me that I got creepy and cute at the same time. (No, Nightmare before Xmas and Corpse bright were just cute. Sorry.)
Of course we see the end coming. That’s what makes it scary. “No, don’t go in! Run!” And the little guy on the bicycle bumping desperately into the door, over and over. Wonderful.
No way my daughter is watching this. She’d have nightmares for weeks.
I saw a goof. The mitt laying on the shelf is left handed. She took off her right mitt.
…that should have been “Corpse Bride”…
My three year old watched this and said “That’s Santa Claus”, which is horrifying and brilliant on so many levels.
Well the soul transferred into a doll thing is a pretty standard archetype so you dont need to have seen anything else that uses that motif to understand what it going to happen. I thought the short was brilliant. It was however not as creepy as “The Cat with Hands.” Look it up for a creep-fest.
Wonderful short. Good story telling. Way to keep the tension up right to the end.
I absolutely adore this, I also noticed that after she turns into the doll, the dolls eyes change colors from blue to green. Interesting.
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